- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) | A 200-pound domesticated chimpanzee who once starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola was fatally shot by police after a rampage that left a friend of its owner severely mauled.

Sandra Herold, who owned the 15-year-old chimp named Travis, wrestled with the animal, stabbed it and hit it with a shovel after it inexplicably attacked her friend Charla Nash, 55.

Miss Nash had gone to Miss Herold’s home in Stamford on Monday to help her coax the chimp back into the house after he got out, police said. After the animal lunged at Miss Nash when she got out of her car, Miss Herold ran inside to call 911 and returned armed.

“She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her longtime pet numerous times in an effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked,” said Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin. Miss Herold told police that the knife had no effect, and that she also struck Travis with a shovel.

Miss Nash was in critical condition Tuesday after suffering what Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy called “life-changing, if not life-threatening,” injuries to her face and hands.

Her sister-in-law, Kate Nash, said Tuesday morning that Miss Nash underwent surgery Monday night and came out of it “OK.”

Miss Herold and two officers also received minor injuries, police said. Capt. Conklin said police don’t know what triggered the attack.

“There was no provocation that we know of. One thing that we’re looking into is that we understand the chimpanzee has Lyme disease and has been ill from that, so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don’t know,” he said.

Colleen McCann, a primatologist at the Bronx Zoo, said Tuesday that chimpanzees are unpredictable and dangerous even after living among humans for years.

“It’s deceiving to think that if any animal is … well-behaved around humans, that means there is no risk involved to humans for potential outbursts of behavior,” she said. “They are unpredictable, and in instances like this you cannot control that behavior or prevent it from happening if it is in a private home.”

After the initial attack, Travis ran away and started roaming Miss Herold’s property until police arrived, setting up security so medics could reach the critically injured woman, Capt. Conklin said.

But the chimpanzee returned and went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars, Capt. Conklin said. An officer shot Travis several times after the animal opened the door to his cruiser and started to get in.

“The animal had cornered him,” Capt. Conklin said Tuesday. “He had no other recourse.”

The wounded chimpanzee fled into the house and retreated to his living quarters, where he died.

A woman answering the door at Miss Herold’s house Tuesday morning declined to comment.

Capt. Conklin told reporters the chimp was acting so agitated earlier that afternoon that Miss Herold gave him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Capt. Conklin also suggested the animal may have attacked Miss Nash because she was wearing her hair differently and perhaps wasn’t recognized.

The chimpanzee was well known around Stamford because he rode around in trucks belonging to the towing company operated by his owners.

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